Professor Jyotirmayee Dash won the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize 2020 in Chemical Sciences this year. She is first Odia woman to win the prestigious award. The work done by her in the field of Chemical Sciences is commendable including that on synthesis of diverse molecules that can be used to study structure and function of therapeutic targets.

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize is considered a most coveted award and is presented by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was named after the founder-director of CSIR.

Jyotirmayee is a Odia scientist who is currently working as a professor at the Department of Organic Chemistry at Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in Jadavpur, Kolkata. Dash works on the synthesis of natural products, the self-assembly of nucleo-bases, recognition and the regulation of nucleic acids. She said in a statement that her group of researchers “intend to synthesise small drug molecules that selectively bind to DNA secondary structures and regulate oncogene expression.” She explained how the small drug molecules have the potential to be anticancer agents. She also intends “developing membrane channels that can deliver small drug molecules to cancer cells.”

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Jyotirmayee Dash’s Achievements

Dr. Jyotirmayee Dash received her Ph.D from IIT Kanpur. She was also nominated for the Swarnajayanti fellowship award instituted by the Department of Science and Technology for the year 2015-16. Among the 11 nominees, she was the only woman nominee for the award that year. She was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship and the Marie Curie fellowship with Prof. S. Balasubramanian who was from University of Cambridge.

Later, in the year 2009 she joined the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata as an assistant professor. She has also worked as a visiting fellow (a scholar from an institution visits the hosts university to teach or present research on a particular topic) University of Bristol.

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In the year 2019, Dash led the research team from the School of Chemical Sciences, IACS. At that time, the team was working to fabricate hydrogels. They were working on using a naturally occurring nucleoside molecule cytidine to self-assemble into a hydrogel ( hydrophilic cross-linked polymer chains) in the presence of silver acetate and phenyl boronic acid. During this research, Jyotirmayee Dash discovered that the silver-containing hydrogel was actually capable of killing E. coli ( a bacteria generally found in lower intestine of warm blooded organisms). The hydrogel reduced the cell size of the E. coli and disrupted its cell membrane, leading to leakage of cellular contents. The results of the study were also published in the journal ACS Applied Bio Materials.

She said in an interview,“The hydrogel can be tuned to change the anti-bacterial activity. By changing the boronic acid component used in the hydrogel we can prepare a large number of hydrogels with different bacterial killing properties.”

Khushi Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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